Vancouver man pleads guilty in hit-and-run

Lawyer says defendant wants to aid victim, who lost his lower left leg

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

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A Vancouver hit-and-run driver who struck a pedestrian, costing the man the lower half of his left leg, pleaded guilty as charged Thursday.

Joshua Allen Johnson, 31, entered the guilty pleas in Clark County Superior Court to hit-and-run resulting in injury and possession of methamphetamine. He was originally in court for a trial readiness hearing, but his attorney Michael Green said that his client was offered a plea deal late Wednesday afternoon.

The victim, Paul P. Adams, 34, was walking along the shoulder of Northeast 54th Avenue in the early morning hours of Feb. 20 in the Minnehaha area when Johnson struck him and fled. A passer-by found Adams lying severely injured next to the road, and he was rushed to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. His injuries later led to the amputation of his lower left leg.

The circumstances of the crash and resulting injuries are strikingly similar to that of a 2013 crash that cost teenager Justin Carey the lower half of his right leg. Shaun Johnson, the driver who was twice convicted of striking Carey as he waited at a school bus stop in Battle Ground, is the mother of Joshua Johnson.

“Joshua wants to express that he’s sincerely sorry for what happened to Paul Adams. He extends his sincerest apologies to Paul and his family. He feels terrible about what happened and, when he gets out of prison, he’s planning to do whatever he can to help Paul in his recovery,” Green told The Columbian on behalf of Johnson.

Johnson — who has a lengthy criminal history involving drug use — is potentially facing five years in prison on the hit-and-run conviction. But a judge on Thursday granted him the opportunity to be screened for the prison-based drug offender sentencing alternative, known as DOSA.

The program takes the midpoint of a standard sentencing range and cuts it in half so that offenders spend half their sentence in prison and the other on community custody. Offenders undergo substance abuse treatment while in custody and continue treatment when released. They must also refrain from drug use. If they violate their community custody, they may be ordered to serve the remainder of their sentence in prison.

If Johnson qualifies and is sentenced to prison-based DOSA, he would serve 30 months in prison and 30 months on community custody — because of his high offender score, his sentencing range is simply 60 months.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu will not recommend a sentence until the hearing and after reviewing the screening report. Johnson will be sentenced Aug. 7.

Johnson was driving a red 2002 Nissan Sentra southbound and struck Adams in the 4100 block of Northeast 54th Avenue. He sped off, but debris left from his vehicle led investigators to believe a Nissan sedan was involved. Officers located the suspect vehicle the following day at a residence in Vancouver’s Truman neighborhood, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

A passenger in Johnson’s vehicle at the time of the crash told detectives they had gone to a warehouse near the Grand Central Station shopping center off state Highway 14 to buy methamphetamine. They then drove to a neighborhood not far from the crash scene, where they parked and talked for about an hour, the affidavit states.

Johnson was driving to drop off his passenger when the crash occurred, according to court documents.